Worrying about the development of your child is normal. We often worry if our kids are social enough, happy enough, motivated enough, etc. But when and how should parents seek professional help?
The first thing is to document the behaviors. Try to list out specific things you are concerned about, instead of “He acts out all the time” maybe “His teacher calls home once a day stating that he gets upset when writing”.
Are these behaviors outside the typical range for their age? Since all children and teenagers exhibit mood swings and changes in their behaviors, it is sometimes difficult to separate what is normal day-to-day from a serious problem. You may want to share your observations with a professional who is in regular contact with your child– such as a teacher, counselor, school psychologist, or pediatrician. They can help you get a perspective on whether the behaviors fall outside of the typical range.
How long has it been occurring? Problematic behavior that’s been happening for a few days or even a few weeks is often a response to a stressful event, and something that will disappear over time. Part of diagnosing a child is eliminating things that are short-term responses, and probably don’t require intervention.
How much are they interfering with life? Perhaps the biggest determinant of whether your child needs help is whether their symptoms or behaviors are getting in the way of doing age-appropriate things. Is it disrupting the family and causing conflict at home? Is it causing difficulty at school, or difficulty getting along with friends? If a child is unable to do things they want to do, or take pleasure in many things their peers enjoy, or get along with teachers, family members and friends, then maybe it is time to consider getting help.